Oh, hey, do you know what a mondegreen is? No? Well what the fuck are you waiting for? Click the link, son!
Within my immediate family, I’ve got somewhat of a reputation for these sorts of oopsies. Juanita swears it’s genetic; you should hear some of the doozies that my Dad has come up with over the years. Anyway, in order to avoid future embarrassment, I often find myself looking up the lyrics to songs I enjoy (I assume this makes showertime concerts more enjoyable for my neighbors as well).
My point is this. I listen to a lot of musics, which means I read a lot of lyrics, and sometimes I can’t help but feel gut-punched right in the feelsies by them. Have you ever been hit super hard by a line in a song? It doesn’t have to be deep, or all that clever. Just something about how a particular phrase is worded just makes you think YES. Fuck yes. This is a yes, yes. A hundred times yes!
It got me thinking about some of my favorites.
Amy Winehouse / “Me and Mr. Jones”
What kind of fuckery is this?
One of the best opening lines to a song, period. I love it. It’s bold. It’s got legs. She could stop singing right fucking there and I wouldn’t need any more. But, oh, I want more. I’m hooked, baby. Please explain to me the situation.
It’s followed immediately by You made me miss the Slick Rick gig, which sounds a little silly and filler-y, but works here as a sturdy, concrete statement following that doozy of an opener. It’s not a line inserted for the rhyme (because, duh, it doesn’t) but it is pleasantly assonant, and makes for a lovely couplet.
Ben Folds Five / “Draw a Crowd”
The refrain here is fantastic in its juvenile wordplay:
Oh- oh, if you’re feeling small
And you can’t draw a crowd
Draw dicks on a wall.
Despite the melody being catchy as hell, hearing this song relieved my worries about Mr. Folds cutting an album avec the “Five” (really three) again. No way would he be able to tap into the manic-ness of Whatever and Ever Amen or the unexpected depth of The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, right? Phew. I was wrong.
Elliott Smith / “St Ides Heaven”
Well, no shit I’d include him in this list. You want I should write you a book? Heh. Ahem. Anyway, Smith is a master at painting a very clear picture with very few words. After the initial set up (the opening few lines are fantastic, too, but I’ll let you listen for yourself), there are a few standout supporting lines. Among them:
‘Cause everyone is a fucking pro
And they all got answers from trouble they’ve known
As a side note: I’ve seen a few very beautiful tattoos that include another line from this song: the moon is a lightbulb breaking. While not my personal first choice for lyrical ink, I can respect it.
My Morning Jacket / “The Bear”
The time is near / To come forward with whatever killed your spark
This one got me again recently. Short, sweet, succinct…and beautifully worded.
The Mountain Goats / “Psalm 40:2”
Lord send me a mechanic if I’m not beyond repair
I could also write a book about the musical genius that is John Darnielle. Every other damn line in this particular song is fantastic as well, but this one rises above the rest.
The Weakerthans / “One Great City!”
Late afternoon, another day is nearly done
A darker grey is breaking through a lighter one
Couldn’t have painted a better word picture, imo.
Delta Spirit / “Trashcan”
This world is much too small to feel like nothing
Aw, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
Ben Lee / “Ache for you”
There’s no rhyme and there’s no reason
You’re the secret in the back of my skull
“…the secret in the back of my skull.” What the hell does that even mean? No, that’s not a legitimate question, because you know what he’s talking about. You were just never able to phrase it quite so nicely.
The National / “Pink Rabbits”
I couldn’t find quiet
I went out in the rain
I was just soakin’ my head to unrattle my brain
Okay, maybe my book will feature multiple chapters, because I’d certainly be able to devote some page space to The National, too. See also: every song from Trouble Will Find Me, which I’ve listening to damn-near-obsessively for a few months now.
I’m forcing myself to stop now, but would love to hear yours… comment away, reader(s)!